Like thousand of others I have surpressed some of the memories of Vietnam and have had very little reason to open up the scars that the war left on me, but recently I was reminded of one special date. It was March 10, 1968 .
All of the enlisted men's tents had already been sand bagged and they where in a relatively safe mode, and on this date a detail had been assigned to help the Warrants sand bag their quarters.
My dear friend CW 2 Robert Boyle was lending a hand as were most of the enlisted personnel from the maintenance and ammunition sections. There was a lot of laughing and joking going on. I had just taken a picture (which I still have) of the work in progress when around mid day a rocket landed in the area that changed my life for ever.
By the Grace of God I was on the other side of the building and was not hurt. I immediately rushed to the area to give what assistance I could.
One person had been moved to a shelter area under a large tower that was directly behind the quarters. As I checked on him I could see he had a severe stomach wound, but was being held in the arms of Brodie and tended by others in the shelter.
I immediately went to the area where the others that were wounded lay. It was quite obvious that one of the soldiers had been killed instantly, and to the side was Freeman Bolen. He was obliviously in pain as well as shock. However we were able to talk for a few minutes until the medic and the doctor arrived.
While waiting for the medical personnel, Freeman's only request was that I place something under his head as he was laying downhill. The only thing available was a sand bag which I obliged him the best I could.
We were still receiving incoming, but I felt it was my duty as well as my privilege to cover his body with mine while awaiting the medical personnel. This was not a heroic thing I did; it was simply trying to get my butt just as low to the ground as I could.
We were all scared and knew that the next round (and there were many) might be the one that had our name on it. It seem like a long time before they arrived, but I am sure it was less than five minutes as they put their bodies in harms way to travel across the compound to where we were.
Upon arriving the doctor did a quick triage and immediately loaded Freeman in the ambulance to be transported to the nearest facilities. After they left and after the incoming ceased I was one of those who began to recover some of the body parts of the individual that was killed instantly.
It was a long afternoon and the conversation were quiet and subdued as the reality of war really set in. Through out that day and several days afterwards more attention was paid to the necessity of shelter form the never ceasing barrages of incoming rounds that we received.
A few days later CW2 Boyle and I traveled to Danang to see Freeman. He was sedated and had a hard time responding as he drifted in and out of his medicated state. Under the circumstance he looked as if he was receiving the best medical attention that was available, even though the hospital ward was in a tent like shelter.
Upon returning to Dong Ha we found out that Freeman had passed away from his injuries. Time erases a lot of memories, but that day will be forever etched in my mind knowing that Freeman Bolen died so others might live.
CW 4 Joe L. Talley
NOTE: Many of us have always known that Joe Talley was there that day. While searching for the names of three men who died that day and soon afterward, we always wondered why we were unable to get much information from Joe Talley. The last sentence of Joe's story tells it all. Joe, we now realize that they were building the protective sand bag walls for your hootch. God bless these good men, and may your thoughts of this occasion be the fond memories the loyal and faithful men who served under and with you.